Route mapping software: Your essential checklist

Greg Dette by Greg Dette  |  8 minute read
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Finding the right solution can seem impossible with so many options for route mapping software on the market. There's likely a different app for each step of your sales route planning process, but managing a patchwork of disparate software systems is not just inconvenient — it costs you time and money. While you might be tempted to search for free route planning software, these solutions lack necessary features such as unlimited stops, route optimization, and driver tracking.

For field sales operations with sophisticated route planning needs, premium route mapping software offers everything you need. But, what is this type of route manager, why do you need it, and what capabilities should it include?

What is route mapping software?

Route mapping software, or route planning software, is specifically designed for sales operations teams to find the most efficient route between multiple stops. After inputting customer data, it generates a map with all of the customer visits your reps need to make. The software can organize visits by territory, location, priority, and other attributes to create an individual route plan for each driver. This enables operations teams to streamline route planning and minimizes travel time for sales reps.

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Are Apple Maps or Google Maps good enough?

The short answer is, unfortunately, no. While consumer-level navigation apps like Google or Apple Maps can get a driver to their destination, they aren't designed for adding multiple stops for different customers. Your sales reps have to manually enter each address — in the optimal order — and repeat this process any time their schedules change. Even the best free route planner, in conjunction with enterprise tools, has trouble re-optimizing routes when appointments need to be adjusted.

True route optimization

It's one thing to plan the optimal route, but often your sales reps need flexibility in their schedules. That means adapting to changes like last-minute cancellations, traffic delays and other daily disruptions. To ensure your reps are visiting the right clients and staying on track, your routing solution needs a route optimization feature that accounts for these disruptions by automatically adjusting their schedules and calculating a new route.

Why your field sales team needs routing software

The modern field sales landscape is fast and competitive. Any time spent outside of meeting with leads and delivering customer service is lost productivity. Businesses that still rely on manual route planning or outdated mapping software quickly learn that it takes optimization technology to succeed.

With a route optimization solution, you get all of the features you need to enhance performance, boost sales productivity, and improve customer satisfaction. Route optimization can provide the competitive advantage your business requires to thrive in today's field sales environment. You only need to know what to look for in a route mapping solution.

Benefits of route optimization software

While there are many advantages that come with using route optimization software, here are three primary benefits for operations teams, sales reps and customers:

  1. Reduce costs: Each optimized route is calculated for time- and cost-efficiency, saving on fuel and maintenance expenses.
  2. Boost productivity: With less travel time, sales reps have more hours in the day to visit with leads and customers, driving up sales productivity.
  3. Increase customer satisfaction: More face-to-face time allows your reps to fully address client questions and concerns, increasing sales effectiveness and satisfaction with each appointment.

14 things you should consider before you buy route mapping software

Although you're likely eager to start looking for route optimization software, it's important to understand the features and capabilities you'll need first. Not all routing solutions are built the same. Finding the right one for your field sales business requires careful consideration and comparison. After all, you don't want to end up paying for a basic tool that works the same as free route planning software.

Like any other investment, there are a lot of factors that go into what makes a good route planner. To help you decide on the right solution for your business, here are 14 things you should look for in a route optimization solution.

1. Integrations and compatibility

The first thing you'll want to find out is whether or not the route planner can integrate with your existing digital architecture. It should be interoperable with your drivers' navigation apps and connect to your customer relationship management (CRM) platform. That way, drivers can seamlessly operate the routing and GPS apps and users have centralized access to important client data. If you use GPS tracking or another route monitoring software, you should also ensure that your planning solution is compatible.

2. Regular and consistent updates

While it might not seem critical initially, regular updates show a dedicated development team behind the software. You don't want to have a buggy tool that never gets fixed. With consistent cloud updates to your software, you won't have to worry about your investment becoming obsolete over time.

3. Flexible and scalable for your business needs

Every field sales business is different, with varying needs and objectives. Route optimization software should be flexible enough to support all of your current routing needs and scalable enough to grow as your business does. Look for solutions that offer long-term benefits with expert support as your field sales operation expands.

4. Collaborative features and data sharing

Collaboration is critical for any company, but especially field sales operations. You need to be able to work with team members and sales reps to develop strategies, routes, and schedules that achieve business goals and satisfy clients. You must also share these itineraries with drivers to prepare them for their next sales routes. Look for routing software with collaborative features and data sharing capabilities to support your current operations and processes.

5. User-friendly software interface

The software you choose should also have an intuitive user interface. Dealing with complicated systems can quickly become a nightmare for operations teams who must efficiently schedule and plan multiple routes for their reps. With an easy-to-use solution for route optimization, you can save time by streamlining route planning operations. Plus, a smaller learning curve makes training a breeze for new users.

6. Mobile app for drivers

Field sales reps shouldn't need access to a laptop or desktop computer to utilize your route planning software. Your route planner needs to be mobile compatible, offering a user-friendly, on-the-go app for drivers to use throughout the day. Not only does this provide them with daily schedules, routes, and itineraries, but it also enables them to send updates to office staff.

7. Instant updates from the field

Speaking of access while on the move, your route planning software should also enable real-time updates between field sales representatives and operations teams. For example, if a rep receives a last-minute appointment change, they need to be able to communicate this with managers back at the company. Using the right route planner, field reps can send information like appointment length and schedule changes directly to you. This allows for easy record-keeping and performance tracking across your entire sales team.

8. Sales rep meeting notes

While keeping track of timelines and client visits is vital, this doesn't cover all of the valuable data that sales reps collect. Your routing software should also allow reps to add any relevant meeting notes they take during each client stop. This information can help sales managers determine where each lead is in their buyer journey to inform future route planning decisions.

9. Unify your sales data

In addition to mapping customer locations, your route optimization software should also integrate with historical sales data to provide a contextualized view of your territories. This information will tell you which accounts are high-value buyers and which leads might need a bit more nurturing. On top of providing heatmaps of density populated with priority clients, integrated sales data will also help you track real-time performance as drivers travel along their routes.

10. Efficient route mapping

Perhaps the most noteworthy feature you should look for is route efficiency. The more time your drivers are on the road, the less they have to sell to customers. As a result, finding the most efficient route between multiple high-value clients can bring huge advantages to your business. Less travel time also means lower fuel costs and less frequent vehicle repairs.

11. Unlimited stops for multiple routes

While your reps can't visit an infinite number of clients each day, having the ability to input unlimited stops can help you map and visualize your entire customer base. With all these pinpoints plotted out, you can select a cluster of the most important clients to meet each day. A route planner will then find the optimal route between stops to save your driver time while ensuring they meet with high-value clients.

12. Route recommendations for high-potential areas

If your route planner maps out all of the stops but leaves the actual routing to you, it's not saving you time or energy. Look for software options that have recommendation engines built in. That way, when you input your customer and sales data, your route planning solution automatically calculates recommended routes that include as many high-value stops as possible. It can also rank priority based on the last visit date so customers won't feel ignored. With these algorithmically generated high-value routes, you won't have to worry about missed opportunities.

13. Fleet management for field reps

While field sales operations don't monitor their drivers as much as delivery companies do, fleet management is still an essential aspect of route planning. In this context, fleet management ensures your sales reps stay on schedule and meet with the right clients. To do this, route optimization software needs to keep tabs on all your drivers, monitoring things like travel time, appointment length, and any field service requests to get them back on the road.

14. Automatic route re-optimization

One of — if not the — most critical aspects of route mapping software is the ability to optimize routes throughout the day. When your sales reps need to go outside the planned schedule to meet with high-value clients or account for disruptions, they need a tool that will automatically find the next most efficient route. With a route optimization solution, any changes your field reps make are logged in the app and advanced algorithms generate a newly optimized route to make the next appointment on time.

Smarter route mapping with eSpatial

eRouting is a brand new, all-in-one software solution from eSpatial. Designed to deliver the optimized route every time, eRouting allows businesses to maximize selling time and sales productivity while minimizing travel time and other inefficiencies. Powered by cutting-edge intelligent algorithms, this route optimization solution can do everything from mapping your clients and developing a speedy route to adjusting on-the-fly for unexpected delays and schedule changes.

Visit our website to learn more about how eRouting can help you optimize your field sales operation.

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Greg Dette Written by

Greg Dette

Greg is GIS through and through. He earned a degree in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Cartography from Rutger's University in New Jersey and has enjoyed a career in mapping software sales working with: MapInfo, Terralign, MapAnything, and others. His passion is sales optimization with mapping. Working with customers, he helps them expose hidden inefficiencies and revenue and guides them to achieve 100% sales resource capacity. Greg lives in Albany New York. When he isn't solving mapping problems, he enjoys walking his new Labrador puppy and other outdoor activities, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

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